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Deadly fighting resumes in Gaza as truce expires

By AFP - Dec 01,2023 - Last updated at Dec 02,2023

A woman holding a child mourns her baby girl killed in an Israeli strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, as she waits to receive the body for burial in the courtyard of the al-Najjar hospital on Friday, after battles resumed between Israel and the Hamas movement. A temporary truce between Israel and Hamas expired on Friday, with the Israeli army saying combat operations had resumed, accusing Hamas of violating the operational pause. (AFP Photo by Mohammad Abed)

Gaza Strip, Palestinian Territories – Intense fighting erupted once again in Gaza on Friday as a week-long truce expired and Israel resumed its deadly bombardment of suspected Hamas positions in the densely inhabited Palestinian territory.

The Hamas-run health ministry in the Gaza Strip said 29 people had been killed in the first hours after the pause in hostilities ended at 0500 GMT.

An AFPTV live camera feed showed an explosion and large grey cloud rising over northern Gaza. Israeli forces said its warplanes were "striking" Hamas targets in Gaza, where AFP journalists reported bombings in the north and south.

Combat resumed shortly after Israeli forces said it had intercepted a rocket fired from Gaza, the first from the territory since a missile launched minutes into the start of the truce on November 24.

A source close to Hamas told AFP the group's armed wing had received "the order to resume combat" and to "defend the Gaza Strip", with heavy fighting reported in parts of Gaza City.

In Khan Yunis, a group of men chanted "God is greatest" as they rushed through the streets carrying a body wrapped in a white shroud.

The "war has returned, even more fierce", Anas Abu Dagga, 22, told AFP at a hospital in the city in southern Gaza.

In Israel, sirens warning of potential missiles sounded in several communities near Gaza, and authorities said they were restarting security measures in the area including closing schools.

Qatar, which helped to broker the trace with diplomatic support from the US and Egypt, called for the violence to stop.

Its foreign ministry said the bombing "complicates mediation efforts and exacerbates the humanitarian catastrophe in the Strip" and it urged "the international community to move quickly to stop the violence".

 

Talks 'ongoing'

 

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said fighting had restarted after Hamas "violated" the truce.

"The Government of Israel is committed to achieving the goals of the war: Releasing the hostages, eliminating Hamas and ensuring that Gaza never again constitutes a threat to the residents of Israel," it said.

Despite the resumption of fighting, talks between Qatari and Egyptian mediators were "ongoing", said a source briefed on the talks.

During the seven-day truce Hamas freed 80 Israeli hostages in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners, and more aid entered Gaza, where about 80 per cent of the population is displaced and short of food and water.

Another 25 hostages, mostly Thais, were also freed outside the scope of the truce agreement.

On Thursday, Washington's top diplomat Antony Blinken, meeting Israeli and Palestinian officials, called for the truce to be extended, and warned any resumption of combat must protect Palestinian civilians.

Other world leaders, and aid groups, had also sought an extended pause in the fighting that began on October 7 when Hamas broke through Gaza's militarised border into Israel.

During the unprecedented attack, Hamas killed about 1,200 people, and kidnapped about 240, according to Israeli authorities.

Israel vowed to eliminate Hamas and unleashed an air and ground military campaign in Gaza that the Hamas government says has killed more than 15,000 people, mostly civilians.

 

'Coming back'

 

On Thursday eight more Israeli hostages, some holding dual nationality, were released.

It was fewer than the 10 hostages a day promised under the truce deal. A source close to Hamas said it was counting two Russian-Israeli women released on Wednesday as part of the seventh batch.

The release brought relief for Keren Shem, whose daughter Mia was among those freed. The family released footage showing Keren weeping with joy as she was informed by phone of her daughter's imminent freedom.

"Mia is coming back," she cried out.

Not long after the hostages arrived in Israel, the country's prison service said another 30 Palestinian prisoners, 23 minors and seven women, had been freed.

After meeting leaders in Israel and the occupied West Bank, Blinken said Washington wants "to see this process continue to move forward".

"We want an eighth day and beyond," he said. Blinked left Israel early Friday.

A source close to Hamas said the group backed another extension and mediators were working to prolong the pause, but the negotiations appeared to have failed.

Israel had made clear it viewed the truce as a temporary pause to secure the release of hostages.

"We swore... to eliminate Hamas, and nothing will stop us," Netanyahu said in a video released by his office, after meeting with Blinken.

His government has come under increasing pressure, however, to account for how it will protect civilians in the territory, which is under blockade, with no way for people to escape.

 

'Protection plans'

 

Blinken had warned that any resumed military operation by Israel "must put in place humanitarian civilian protection plans that minimise further casualties of innocent Palestinians".

Specifically, Israel must "clearly and precisely" designate areas "in southern and central Gaza, where they can be safe and out of the line of fire", he said.

International bodies have called for more time to get medical supplies, food and fuel into Gaza, where an estimated 1.7 million people have been forced from their homes.

The truce had allowed people to return to the ruins of their homes to pick through the rubble for remaining belongings and provided a sense of safety after weeks of daily bombardment.

The violence in Gaza has also raised tensions in the West Bank, where nearly 240 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers or settlers since October 7, according to the Ramallah-based Palestinian health ministry.

The New York Times reported that Israeli authorities were aware Hamas was planning a major assault, and had obtained a blueprint for the attack, which the group appears to have largely followed on October 7.

Intelligence and military officials dismissed the plan as aspirational, even after a warning that the group had carried out a training exercise in line with the plan, according to the report.

 

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